The SAT or ACT Requirement

ACT Requirement, SAT Requirement, SAT in Admissions
A piece for Forbes raises a skeptical eyebrow to the notion that dropping the SAT or ACT requirement in undergraduate admissions will foster equal opportunity.

Recently, we wrote about a misleading headline in The Washington Post: “A record number of colleges drop SAT/ACT admissions requirement amid growing disenchantment with standardized tests.” We argued the title of the piece, penned by Valerie Strauss, was misleading because our nation’s highly selective colleges haven’t exactly followed the trailblazing University of Chicago’s lead by dropping the SAT or ACT requirement in the wake of UChicago’s June 2018 decision to go test-optional. All of the Ivy League schools along with Duke, MIT, Caltech, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, etc. still require the SAT or ACT for undergraduate admission. We’re all for pointing out trends in elite college admissions but let’s not point out trends where no such trend exists.

The Vast Majority of Our Nation’s Elite Colleges Still Require the SAT/ACT

Because when folks do point out trends that don’t exist, it perpetuates misconceptions about the highly selective college admissions process — and it it inspires further editorials that perpetuate the myth that more and more of our nation’s top colleges are going test-optional. Could these schools go test-optional in the future? Absolutely. But as of yet…they still require those tests! In fact, in response to the piece in WaPo, Tom Lindsay wrote an editorial for Forbes entitled “Death to Merit! College Admissions Process Descends Into The Abyss,” a headline that further plays into the myth that these schools are steering away from the SAT and ACT. But while we disagree with disagree with the headline — since the vast majority of our nation’s elite colleges are not descending in this abyss by gong test-optional in undergraduate admissions — we do agree with some of the points raised in Mr. Lindsay’s piece.

Universities Dropping the SAT/ACT Requirement Will Not Create Equal Opportunity

As he writes in response to schools no longer requiring the SAT or ACT, “How, then, will applicants be ranked? Going forward, schools tell us, they will look at what they deem more reliable than the SAT and ACT tests: high school grades. There is nothing wrong, and much that is right, about looking at high school grades as predictors of collegiate success. But, to better predict such success, why not look at both high school grades and SAT/ACT scores? How does removing information about students make for better-informed evaluations of them? Even those whose research points to the superiority of high school GPA over the SAT/ACT simultaneously confess that ‘better marks on both measures predict a better chance of completion.’ Our schools’ flight from common sense raises troubling questions about what exactly is going on and what the results of this move will be.”

Dropping the SAT/ACT Requirement is Evidence of a Lack of a Better Alternative

And Mr. Lindsay is right. The fact is high schools across America and around the world are not all apples. Rather, high schools are apples and oranges. Some schools are fantastic. Some schools are not fantastic. Some high schools are just plain terrible — yes even some of the fancy schmancy preparatory schools in America. An A in a course at one high school is not an A in a course at another high school. Testing, including the SAT and ACT, is a way to compare apples to apples. And while the SAT and ACT are far from perfect measures as scores on these exams can be heavily influenced by great tutoring which favors the privileged, we, like Mr. Lindsay, don’t see how merely dropping this requirement creates equal opportunity for all. No, dropping this requirement is not some revolutionary idea. Rather, we would argue, dropping the requirement is evidence of the absence of a better idea.


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